A smart mouth and a challenging attitude doesn’t necessarily mean trouble, at least not according to Beyoncé Blair, a coach and mentor at Conisborough College. Beyoncé runs our Represent programme at the college, working with a group of girls aged 11-12.
To mark our 30th year, we have gathered stories to celebrate the many ways that life stories have been changed by three decades of the National Literacy Trust. We'll let Beyoncé tell us more about how she is helping us change life stories in the college where she works.
“When I first became a mentor, I was asked to help a group of “troubled” girls. But when I met them, I realised they aren’t troubled at all, they’re just fighting for space in their world, and feel they have to act older than they are. A lot of kids around here are exposed to some tough subjects early on in life, and they’re forced to grow up quickly.”Beyoncé Blair, a coach and mentor at Conisborough College
The Represent programme focuses on topics which aren’t typically covered in the average classroom, like boundaries, body image and social media. It is primarily aimed at girls who have been excluded, are at risk of exclusion, self-exclude, or are attending alternative provision.
However, in Beyoncé’s school, girls were encouraged to sign themselves up, and the programme was an instant hit. “The topics and texts help the girls to be open and vulnerable, and they can express themselves without judgement.
“In the first session, the girls were firmly set on their own opinions – none of them were friends outside the sessions, but as time went on, they learnt to respect different viewpoints, and they understood that their opinions came from different places, to become more open-minded.”
After just a couple of weeks into the programme, the girls’ behaviours changed in other lessons, particularly in the English department. Lots of the girls were writing for the love of it, and they would bring in what they’d written. They had started completing class homework and stopped acting out during lessons. “They knew I would want to read what they had to say, and they could express themselves clearly and with confidence, to ask for help when they need it.”
Beyoncé shared the experience of one of her students, who had older brothers, which meant she was very tough and dominant in the Represent group. She had told Beyoncé that her one ambition in life was to become famous but didn’t really care what she wanted to be famous for.
“After completing the Represent sessions, her whole demeanour changed. These days, she listens more than she speaks, and lets the quality of her work speak for itself. She still wants to be famous, but is more humble, and she’s really thinking about how else she can make a difference.”
Literacy changes lives. Literacy gives you the tools to get the most out of life, and the power to shape your future. Beyoncé and her Represent students can testify to that.
Be part of our story too
If you would like to support our work developing activities and resources to empower young women to share their views, create connections and step into their own futures with confidence, you can donate here. Alternatively, if you feel your school would benefit from the Represent programme, you can find out more on the National Literacy Trust website.